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The Clocks (Poirot)
The Clocks (Poirot)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty second rate, 15 July 2017
This review is from: The Clocks (Poirot) (Paperback)
I was quite enthused about this book - the first chapter introduces what promised to be a brilliant story, full of intrigue and details that don't make sense.
Unfortunately, only the first and last chapters are worth reading. The set-up to the mystery is very creative, the solution is quite clever, but the middle is just a lot of waffling on stuff that isn't relevant. The solution in fact hinges on minor details that are alluded to in a couple of sentences earlier in the book.
Poirot hardly features - in a couple of chapters and in the denouement. This being a later work of Christie, by this point she had come to hate her little Belgian detective and tried to avoid putting him in substantially. The novel suffers for this - instead the lead detectives are Hardcastle and Colin Lamb, both of whom are highly irritating and have no real personality.
Page after page of narrative reveals virtually nothing, and when the solution does arrive it seems to be pulled out of a hat. Rather than suspense, the narrative of the book is quite tiresome and makes for a dull read. Characters appear once and then only get mentioned thereafter.
Contrast this with the brilliant "Death on the Nile" or "A Murder is Announced" and you'll see there's a great disparity between quality of narrative, suspense, and intricacy of the plot.

His Bloody Project
His Bloody Project
by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, not perfect though., 9 July 2017
This review is from: His Bloody Project (Paperback)
Quite a good story of the murders committed by Roderick Macrae in 19th century Scotland. Told from the murderer's perspective then the resulting trial.

The first part of the murderer's account is really gripping - I really loved it. But then it lost its way a little, picking up pace again during the trial.

It is all written very nicely and very eloquently. I think though for me some of it lacks depth, and is a bit too narrative in that sense. It gets a bit predictable. But overall a good read.

The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok. Wouldn't read it again though., 4 July 2017
This review is from: The Casual Vacancy (Paperback)
The Good:

- Some really fine writing with very vivid images
- Some really well-drawn characters
- There IS a plot

The Bad:

- Some characters are cardboard and easily confused with one another
- There is a lot of rambling, detailing a second-by-second narrative of a character's life
- The plot is ok, but moves VERY slowly

It's a curious mixture of a book. Some bits were really boring so I scanned through them. Others were heartbreaking. I personally think the book could have been half the length and would have thus told a better story.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs (Tommy and Tuppence)
By the Pricking of My Thumbs (Tommy and Tuppence)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not a masterpiece, 21 Jun. 2017
It's hard to judge this book, because it has all the ingredients of a great mystery - words about a dead child uttered by an elderly woman who then disappears, and then various clues are discovered by Tommy and Tuppence.

Although there is a plot and it does gather momentum, it does so slowly, and there are lots of twists and turns that don't seem to make sense; it's almost as if the clues are all exciting in themselves, but don't add up to a coherent mystery. Some points of the book are very well written, with lots of pace, but other parts are positively rambling, don't advance the plot and are largely irrelevant. Tommy and Tuppence were at their finest in the Secret Adversary and Partners in Crime, but in this novel they border on annoying with all their light-hearted remarks and repeating themselves.

Not a bad read, but not a masterpiece either.

The Housekeeper's Diary: Charles and Diana Before the Breakup
The Housekeeper's Diary: Charles and Diana Before the Breakup
by Wendy Berry
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant page-turner, 23 May 2017
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This was a brilliant read - a real page turner from start to finish. I hung on to every word.

Wendy Berry describes in great detail what it was like working for Charles and Diana at Highgrove, and the account is very well written, balanced and honest. She describes everything, from how kind the couple could be, to how spoiled and hypocritical.

I love this book and highly, highly recommend it. I hope you are well, Wendy, wherever you are!

Deutsch Plus
Deutsch Plus
by Reinhard Tenberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

3.0 out of 5 stars A good supplement, but NOT a standalone course, 3 Nov. 2016
This review is from: Deutsch Plus (Paperback)
I have started using this to consolidate my knowledge after doing a lot of the Assimil German course, which had a lot of thorough albeit complex explanations.

Deutsch Plus is a nicely presented book with colours, drawings and photos, and a fair number of exercises to complete.

However, I think this course would be impossible to use as a standalone, even more so for someone who has not studied languages previously. Although the material presented is useful and varied, it goes straight in with complex grammar points that aren't even explained. I am simply using this book therefore to consolidate what I have learned on another course. It' would be an excellent accompaniment, however, to an evening class with someone there to explain the grammar and the exercises.

So good material, but only as a supplement.

501 Essential German Verbs (Dover Language Guides German)
501 Essential German Verbs (Dover Language Guides German)
by Dr Wolf
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.94

2.0 out of 5 stars Not comprehensive., 26 Jun. 2016
It's a shame because with a few tweaks this could easily be a great language resource.

The pros:

- It does what it says on the tin. 501 German verbs neatly conjugated in all the tenses, in a clear and comprehensive layout.

The cons:

- There are only 501 verbs. This doesn't help you if you find a verb that isn't one of the 501. There is not, for instance, an index to tell you what other verbs follow the same pattern as the 501.
- It doesn't tell you which verbs are regular or irregular, and doesn't mark seperable prefixes.
- The paper quality is very cheap, meaning you can see directly through the page to what is printed on the other side.

This is such a shame because with the above alterations I would not have hesitated in recommending it. As it was, I returned it.

Teach Yourself Complete German (Book/CD Pack) (Teach Yourself Language)
Teach Yourself Complete German (Book/CD Pack) (Teach Yourself Language)
by Heiner Schenke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.39

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An excellent supplement - but not as a stand-alone, 13 Jun. 2016
This is a very comprehensive course, and would be an excellent supplement to anybody studying the language, or for someone studying this course with a tutor.
The layout is clear and colourful, and the exercises are well-designed.

However, although it is marketed as such, it would not be good for someone with no previous language learning experience. As another reviewer has commented, the exercises start out very manageable, but somewhere around the first third of the book the pace picks up extremely quickly - too quickly, even for someone who has studied and speaks other languages. Long and complicated phrases suddenly appear from nowhere, with no explanation as to their grammar. Little words or constructions that haven't been explained are suddenly inserted into exercises with no information, which made it impossible for me to continue as I would have liked (i.e. understanding everything before moving on).

It's a shame, because with some tweaking this would be an excellent teach-yourself method. They need to expand the book a bit to accommodate the vast amounts of information.

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, absorbing, funny, tragic., 4 Jun. 2016
This review is from: The Girl on the Train (Paperback)
I don't normally read books, as I find concentrating difficult. However this one had me really absorbed until the end.

Since there are so many positive reviews on here, I'll leave it to others to explain the plot. The book is so well written and you get to know the characters so well that by the end I really felt for one or more of them. The scenes depicted are vivid and hilarious at times, harrowing at others.

I'd thoroughly recommend it.

Psychology For Dummies
Psychology For Dummies
by Adam Cash
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Says a great deal, tells you very little, 25 April 2016
This review is from: Psychology For Dummies (Paperback)
I am a total beginner in psychology - i.e. I know virtually nothing at all about it. I got this book as I thought it would be an excellent base to start from and would be easy to read.

Unfortunately, the author waffles so much that I read 2 chapters without really having learned anything. He starts using complicated terms from the beginning - no problem there, but then will spend a long time saying a lot but telling you very little. Because of this, some paragraphs I didn't understand, and he very often repeats himself.

I think this book might be better for someone who already has a basic knowledge of psychology, but if you're a total novice like me, I think it's too much.

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